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Historians disagree about many aspects of the Underground Railroad. This is because there is very little evidence that tells us who might have escaped from the south, who helped care for the fugitives, how the fugitives were helped, where (or if) they were hidden, or what their routes were.

The most common form of evidence about the Underground Railroad comes in the form of oral history--tales that have been handed down through the generations. Many stories about fugitives fleeing through Vermont have been passed down through the generations. Sometimes these stories are true and sometimes they are not. It is the historian’s job to figure out which stories are true and which ones are not and to verify the stories with historical evidence.

Read the following newspaper articles and see if you can figure out what it is that the historians are disagreeing about. List the evidence that they use to form their conclusions.

What are your conclusions about the safety of fugitive slaves in Vermont?  Do you think they needed to be hidden in dark cellars and secret rooms?  What circumstances might make the fugitives more or less safe?